If you crave an endless supply of the freshly harvested spicy, savory, bitter and crisp leaves that make a truly great salad, the Salad Lover’s Garden Plan above is for you. Greens enjoy the cooler weather of early spring (and late fall), so you can start the growing season as early as you can work the soil. A series of small beds will facilitate easy successive planting, keeping you in a steady supply of greens all spring.
A salad garden can be as small as a square-foot plot or a matrix of geometric designs. Perfect for new gardeners, lettuce and salad greens are among the easiest and quickest garden crops to grow and are ideal to plant in a kitchen garden. Salad gardens are also highly economical—fresh greens and herbs are relatively expensive to buy, while easy-to-grow seeds are inexpensive and yield a large harvest. Consider a full range of European and American heirloom greens blended with gorgeous lettuces that weave together into a colorful tapestry almost too beautiful to harvest. (For advice on growing salad greens, check out the article 10 Growing Tips for Your Salad Garden.)
A garden of salad greens and herbs is rich in vitamins and minerals and can contain as many as 50 plants with flavors and textures ranging from buttery-soft head lettuce to piquant arugula and peppery cress. You can also grow salad onions, radishes, carrots, cucumbers and edible flowers to enhance the salad bowl, but in this design, salad greens steal the show with their unique blend of wild colors, textures and shapes.
The varieties in this garden plan may be new to you, but they are all worth growing. Your best bet is to start with seeds, as they all are easy to grow. Claytonia, which is rarely found at the farmers’ market, rewards the gardener with tiny, exotic, lily pad-shaped leaves that will add an unusual visual twist to a bowl of greens. ‘Goldgelber’ purslane, a cousin to the more rampant weed, is more upright, and the succulent leaves offer omega-3 fatty acid benefits. Peppery arugula and bold radicchio are tamed by a good creamy dressing, especially when picked young and tender.
Early Spring Herbs
These early herbs don’t mind cool weather—plant them as soon as the ground can be worked to perk up your first salads of the season. Bonus: Honeybees love herbs, and when they visit, they’ll pollinate your vegetables, as well.
■ Chives, fennel and parsley: Direct-sow seeds or transplant seedlings
■ Cilantro and dill: Direct-sow seeds
■ Thyme: Transplant seedlings
Meanwhile, now is the time to start seeds of these culinary herbs indoors for transplanting to the garden later in the season.
■ Summer savory